by Armeen Kaur
There was no fire. No light. It might have been cold and dark, but who knows – I wasn’t born; and those who might have been there are long dead.
Neetu looked at the book, a simplified figure of two men squatting with some stones scattered about. It was indeed a naïve representation, two men with full grown beard - clad in animal skin showing “discovery of fire”- Men indeed had made an accidental discovery. All that running away from Gods and Prometheus – how the race feeds on the stolen property.
She closed the book, like a devout mother. “Oh how would he have read the poem I sent!” She thought while checking her mailbox. The mail wasn’t responded; she opened the sent-folder and re-read the poem. She obviously couldn’t keep the poem to herself, it was meant to be shared – and it could only be shared with him. Looking at the screen Neetu made up her mind that she should get Shashank ready for tomorrow’s school classes. Opening the book she called out to Shashank, it was as hard for her as her son. Forcing herself she asked “Shashank, Do you know how the fire was discovered?” Looking at a squatting pair of men over stones Shashank answered, “Not by rubbing the stones mummy, I tried – nothing happens.”
“Why! How? What did you do?” asked Neetu flabbergasted.
“I tried it yesterday at school, continuous rubbing made the stones hot. It didn’t work.”
Of course, it was a lie. Rubbing stones against each other could never work, stones cannot produce fire – anguish does.
“Do you know of Tisama Shashank?”
“Tisama was a girl born of river. She was born of Brahmaputra in the days when river flowed from the eastern end of the world to the western. It was she who produced fire, but that is a secret. No one would tell you that – but you could ask anyone – anyone would know.”
Shashank looked at his mother, he was clever – he could spot a lie from truth.
“When she was born entire
Devlok had come down to earth and you could see waves pushing gold on the river banks. Brahmaputra had bought all its resources to the surface, the pearls, gold and glistening stones – all lined up on the river bank. She was soon taken by the fishermen and grew up to be a talented fisherwoman. When she was a little older than you she was taught how to feed and fend for herself. Humans, as you already know, lived on plants and meat. Though she learnt the skill of catching fish she could not bring herself to eat it. It smelled foul and tasted bad. As a deft cook and hunter she would always think of ways to make it taste better and would often go to sleep with unresolved thoughts. Eventually her sleep was filled with recurrent dreams of red, she would sleep in peace, but on shutting her eyes instead of going black, everything went red. Tired of these bizarre dreams she went to her mother, river Brahmaputra. Her mother directed her to Devlok, where the revelation was made that Tisama was born of the union of Agni dev and Brahmputra, and was thus chosen to take fire to earthlings for better tasting food.” Neetu finished with an understanding smile. This seemed close to truth to Shashank.
Obviously, truth is always stranger than fiction – And so she kept the truth to herself. Tisama was never given the bounty of torch and fresh fish from the water never tasted foul to her. Tisama, like all ordinary girls had fallen in love - And fortunately unrequited love. Her beloved had left her waiting on the bank of river Brahmaputra. Where she waited for 500 days – on fifth hundredth and first day all the fisherwomen who had been looking for her finally found her. But she was not the same – she was red and ablaze releasing embers. Any woman who tried to save her turned to ashes. Since then, love has been cursed and that is how fire came to earth. A boon with a curse, much like love. ***